Ben Lecomte has been swimming across the Pacific Ocean since June 5th. As we approach the five-month mark of Ben’s Journey, it’s time to check in to see how he’s doing. His journey across the Pacific is a real testament to endurance and the power determination can give us. It has had its challenges, yet Ben just keeps coming back with the persistence to meet his goal. It’s amazing just what humans are capable once they set a course of action. Here’s how he’s been progressing.
September Starts with a Swim Streak
September 1st marked day 88 of Ben’s big swim. It also marked the day that he and his crew found a large wooden cable spool in the ocean. The following days were outstanding days for swimming, and Ben wound up with a 13 day swimming streak! He had an encounter with a small turtle, and even had a crab hitchhike with him for a little ways. Things were off to a good start.
A Scary Day
Day 92 started with great conditions, but soon the weather turned, and it became windy. Even with the wind, Ben was making outstanding progress, and was on his eighth hour swimming. That’s when this happened:
I was on my eighth hours when I felt the push of a wave carrying me forward. At the same moment, a bad maneuver was made on the dinghy which propelled it in reverse right over the streamline. It was too late when I saw the grey side of the RHIB, my head was already by the propeller. I felt my forehead hitting a hard surface and immediately grabbed my forehead. I was hurting but it wasn’t an excruciating pain. When I removed my hands, blood starting to drip.
Luckily, the injury was only superficial (he didn’t need stitches), but he underwent a full assessment before being allowed to retire. When he had his daily meeting, he got to see the snorkel he wore during the crash. It had a huge cut in the middle. He took the next day off.
The Problem with Plastic
One of the projects taken on by Ben’s team in this swim is collecting and weighing ocean debris. By this point in his journey, Ben had already had many encounters with plastic in the ocean. Plastic affects many albatross, as it floats on the surface of the ocean and catches their attention. It winds up in their stomachs, and they die.
Swimming with the Whales
On Day 99, Ben’s team spotted some whales. He filmed one of them swimming, and another one came to swim circles before continuing on her way. After that, Ben swam for a while until they encountered some large pieces of debris:
One was a plastic drum of phosphoric acid and there was still some in it. The other was a big piece of styrofoam with a big bird perched on it and so many different fish living below it. The bird wasn’t scared, he let us approached him and we were able to extend our hands just few inches from him. We radioed the coordinates to Seeker so they could take care of these big pieces of debris.
Ben swam for nine hours that day before calling it good.
1,000 Nautical Miles Swam
On Ben Lecomte’s 100th day swimming the Pacific, he received word that he only had about 10 more nautical miles to swim to reach 1,000, which he reached in his 4th hour. The full-length of his swim will be 5,300 miles. This was a significant milestone for Ben and his team. CONGRATULATIONS!
He took a well-deserved day off for the next day.
Ben Encounters an Eddy
Following some mixed days with stormy weather and swimming days, day 110 had Ben heading for an eddy, a circular rotation. This eddy was moving counterclockwise, so the direction entered could greatly impact the project. So, the goal was to move north-east to pass north of the Eddy. Ben covered 20 miles that day.
Another Big Milestone
On day 118, the last day of September, Ben reached 1000 nautical miles from the coast of Japan, a goal he’d been after since day 100 when he hit 1000 nautical miles of swimming. He had swam a total of 1251 miles from when he began. Even though the weather had started off crummy, he was able to hit this big goal.
October came with another set of difficulties – the engine on the main ship was having some mechanical issues. Ben talked a bit about the changes his body had experienced after spending so much time in the water:
For the past few days, I have noticed some changes. When I step down the stairs, my legs shake. I have lost a lot of muscle mass from those muscle groups I hardly use. My legs are much thinner. This is expected, I calculated that everyday I spend less than half an hour standing and walk less than 250 meters.
All the hours I spend swimming doesn’t make up for the little time I spend standing and walking.
Day 124 brought cold water. As Ben progresses in his swim, the water will get colder. Even through his wetsuit, Ben was able to feel the temperature drop, and with the air temperature getting cooler, he didn’t have the warmth of the sun helping to keep him warm. As he progresses further into the swim, the temperature will pose an ever-increasing challenge.
Start Your Engines
After some days off from swimming due to the wind speed, the engine finally started again on their main boat. After a few weeks of work, and relying on the sail, the sound of the engine starting was quite welcome. Even though day 127 only brought two hours of swimming for Ben, it was a great day for the team.
Ben Swims with His Nephew
After a few hiccups with the boat again, and an encounter with a sunfish, Ben was back into his routine. On day 134, his nephew Paul joined him for a swim:
For the last hour, Paul joined me. He first used a pair of goggles with the snorkel but he found it difficult to inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose, so he then switched to a full mask. It was the first time he and I swam in the Pacific together, a great way to end the day!
It is clear to see that Ben’s family is important to him. Days he starts with a call to his family and children are meaningful and cherished. It’s nice to see that he’s able to swim with Paul, and share the experience with his nephew.
The Dinghy Breaks
More bad boat luck struck on day 136. The propeller on the dinghy stopped spinning correctly. By the time it was fixed, Ben had only half a day left, and made the most of every moment of it, swimming 12 nautical miles. The following days brought the promise of challenging stormy weather – and more plastic debris.
Getting out of the Way of the Super Typhoon
Ben has spent the past several days getting out of the way of a super typhoon system, so they are in sailing mode, no swimming, no data collecting, in order to avoid the dangers.
We’ll Continue to Check In
We will continue to check in with Ben Lecomte’s Pacific swim progress. Once again, I am in awe at the magnitude of the challenge he has undertaken for himself, and I wish him the best on his journey! I can’t wait to see what November has in store for Ben and his crew.